Learning beyond the books
MANILA, Philippines – In Marikina’s Malanday Elementary School, students from Prep to Grade 3 learn in what is called a “self-contained” environment.
This means that for every section, one teacher is in charge of teaching all 8 subjects: Reading, Math, Filipino, and so on.
Vita Jean Acosta, 24, is a self-contained educator that handles Grade 2 pupils in the afternoon. She is also a "Teacher Fellow" for Teach For The Philippines (TFP): a non-profit organization that enlists promising young leaders to teach in public schools throughout the country for 2 years (READ: Top fresh grads commit to teaching in public schools).
For her, this approach is helpful, especially for students who learn at a different pace compared to the rest of their classmates. According to Vita, the students benefit from the close attention, and easily adjust to one teacher’s style of teaching and authority.
But in a half-day class, this may also mean that there is barely enough time for the day’s academic requirements, let alone valuable life lessons.
Vita and the rest of her co-Teacher Fellows at TFP believe that it is also important for students to learn other skills while they’re inside the classroom. That is why, in Malanday Elementary, the TFP Teacher Fellows implemented Coordinates For Life, an after-school activity that aims to develop important life skills among children.
The Coordinates For Life program teaches Grade 2 and 3 students how to deal with challenges like bullying and peer pressure during their childhood. It aims to teach children how to make better choices in life.
“This program helps students develop a strong foundation on their values and life skills,” Vita says. “We want all of them to grow up and succeed in the future.”
Smallest in class
Last year, one of the Coordinates For Life attendees was Ericka Aquino, who is now 9 years old. Vita recalls the very first time she met Ericka.
“[She] was the smallest girl in my class,” Vita recalls. “Even during the first day of school, I saw that she wanted to have friends. And to have friends, she had to follow what the bigger girls were doing.”
Since Ericka was very shy, it was easy for the bigger girls to get her to do things, even if she didn’t necessarily want to do them.
“Nagpapabili sila ng pagkain sa akin kahit hindi ko gusto (They ask me to buy food even if I don’t want to),” Ericka recounts. She says that she even used her own baon money to buy food for her classmates. If she brought actual food, it went to a “picnic” – where they pool their food and allowances together to share snacks. It benefited the other students more than Ericka herself.
So what did she do if she did not end up getting enough food for herself? “Kakain po ako sa bahay (I eat at home),” Ericka says.
“When I saw that it was frequently happening, I asked her why, and she told me that is her way of making friends,” Vita explains. For Ericka, just saying no and standing up for “the right thing” took too long, while by simply following what her classmates tell her to do, she gets instant friends.
“As much as I kept on telling her that there are other ways of making friends, she refused to listen to me,” Vita says.
When the Coordinates For Life sessions started, Vita handpicked Ericka to join the program.
Coordinates For Life classes were very informal sessions. Every Saturday, the selected students looked forward to it because they get to play games like relays and role-playing. Afterwards, Coordinates For Life facilitators processed the activity and connected it to a life lesson – for example, sharing, saying no, or taking turns. According to Vita, the realizations came from the students themselves, as they analyzed their own experiences.
In her Coordinates For Life class, Ericka did everything properly and followed all instructions. “But outside, she still tried to follow what her friends are doing,” Vita recalls. “As much as she wants to do things properly, she was still overpowered by the influence of her friends.”
Eventually, though, changes in Ericka’s personality became more distinct. Vita noticed that she became more active in class. At home, her mother and her elder sister also observed that she became more responsible and more helpful around the house.
"Sabi niya, tinuturuan daw po sila ng magagandang pag-uugali (she told us that they were being taught good values),” says Erlinda, Ericka’s 18-year-old sister. “Dati, sa kapatid niya nag-aaway sila sa laruan. Pero nagbago naman po. Matured na (before, she fought over toys with her sister. But she changed. She’s now mature),” Erlinda adds.
Ericka says that in Coordinates For Life, she learned “Huwag gumawa ng masama. Maging mabuti at mabait, (Don’t do bad things. Be good and kind.)” According to Vita, Ericka learned to speak up more, and even started telling her classmates that what they were doing was not right.
Now, Ericka consults with Vita when she is not sure about something that her classmates are doing. And that’s not all: “Kinukuwentuhan ko po si Teacher Vita ng masasaya na story kapag malungkot siya (I tell Teacher Vita happy stories when she is sad.),” Ericka says.
According to Erlinda, at home Ericka likes to pretend that she’s a teacher, and that her idol is Vita.
Lessons for life
Along with her classmates, in Coordinates For Life, Ericka is learning something much bigger than just telling right and wrong apart.
“The life skills being taught in Coordinates For Life, they’ll use when they’re in their teenage years, and when they become adults,” Vita explains. “They can always use what they’ve learned and [pass it on] to their friends not just in school, but in their community. Their values are what will keep them good citizens.”
At the end of the day, even the Coordinates For Life teachers learn new lessons from these sessions. “It taught me to be more patient, more determined, and more responsible in everything that I do,” Vita says. “These children’s futures depend on my hands. When I pass them on to the higher grades, they have built something they can use.” – Rappler.com
Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines understands the difficulties of our elementary school students and teachers, both in and out of the classroom. Together with Teach For The Philippines, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines is implementing Coordinates For Life, a program that aims to empower young students with confidence and #LIFESKILLS that will help them in their journey through their school years and beyond.